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Riverside Church

Riverside Church (132)

Located in Harlem and very close to Columbia University, the Riverside Church is defined as multi-denominational, interracial and international. In fact, its more than 2,000 members account for over 40 different origins, according to their nationality, ethnicity or social status.

Beyond its impressive social and political work, the Riverside Church is known worldwide for its neo-Gothic style, which throws its elegant tower to the sky up to a height of 120 metres and boasts one of the largest carillons in the world, which John Davison Rockefeller dedicated to his mother, Laura Spelman Rockefeller. The carillon is a set of tuned bells that produce a totally harmonious sound. Specifically, the 74 Riverside Church bronze bells cover a range of 5 octaves. In addition, its Bourdon bell, which offers the lowest note, reaches a weight of 20 tons, which makes it the world's largest Bourdon. The truth is we can assure you that it is impressive to hear them ringing. 

The church was founded in 1896, according to an initiative by Rockefeller, and its construction began in 1927 by the firm Allen, Pelton & Collens to finally offer its first service on 5 October 1930. In fact, Henry Pelton and Charles Collens were funded by Rockefeller and travelled through Spain and France for inspiration to, finally, have a look at the nave of the 18th-century Gothic cathedral of Chartres, France. Therefore, many of the details seem to be modelled on the French church, especially the sculptures of the main facade, such as the Christ in the tympanum flanked by symbols of the evangelists. On the other hand, to build its extraordinary high tower a steel structure was needed to lighten its weight and achieve a similar height to that of a 22-floor building, much more than the very Flatiron Building, for example.

Once inside, it is imperative that you get on the lift that takes you to the top of the tower, over 100 meters high, from where you have an exceptional view of Harlem, Manhattan and New Jersey.

In addition, we recommend you pay particular attention to the lush and elegant ornamentation of the chancel, as well as its pulpit, from which keynote speeches in our history were held. For example, from here Martin Luther King Jr. has spoken against Vietnam War in 1967; Nelson Mandela during his visit to the United States after being released from prison; Fidel Castro in an unexpected visit in 1999; and Kofi Annan after the attacks of 11 September.

One last tip: if you are staying in New York for several days, get information about the concerts being offered here. They are spectacular. As a significant fact, we can explain that the Icelandic artist Björk offered here an exclusive concert in 2002. It was an awesome event.

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